Thousands of protesters marched in cities across the country on Wednesday night with one message: Justice has not been delivered for Breonna Taylor. Protesters were galvanized by Wednesday’s grand jury decision — the secret body of decision-makers did not indict a single officer for shooting Breonna Taylor dead in her apartment in early March.
In Louisville, where the decision was delivered, protesters didn’t let barricades, a curfew, the presence of LMPD officers in riot gear, or the presence of the National Guard deter them from pouring out into the streets to say Breonna Taylor’s name. People marched around downtown Louisville declaring that the city and law enforcement officials had failed them. By early Thursday morning, police had arrested 127 people in Louisville, according to the Courier-Journal, and one suspect was taken into custody in connection to the shooting of two LMPD officers who sustained non-life-threatening injuries, according to interim LMPD chief Robert Schroeder.
Hours before the night of unrest set off, the country learned that no one was directly charged in Taylor’s death. Former Louisville Metro police officer Brett Hankison was indicted on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for threatening the lives of Taylor’s neighbors when he fired bullets that went through Taylor’s apartment into theirs. The two other officers who fired shots into the apartment that night — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and detective Myles Cosgrove — were not indicted.
“The decision before my office as the special prosecutor in this case was not to decide if the loss of Ms. Taylor’s life was a tragedy. The answer to that question is, unequivocally, yes,” Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said at a press conference after the announcement in Louisville.
“My job as a special prosecutor in this case was to put emotions aside and investigate the facts to determine if criminal violations of state law resulted in the loss of Ms. Taylor’s life,” Cameron said.
Benjamin Crump, one of the attorneys representing Taylor’s family, called the grand jury decision “outrageous” and “offensive.” “If Brett Hankison’s behavior was wanton endangerment to people in neighboring apartments, then it should have been wanton endangerment in Breonna Taylor’s apartment too. In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder!” he tweeted.
Protests erupted nationwide in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, Seattle, Washington, DC, and Portland Wednesday night. In Denver, police detained a man who reportedly drove through a crowd of protesters with his vehicle. The incident, which took place near the Colorado State Capitol building, was caught on video. Protesters carried signs with Taylor’s face and large banners that called for defunding and abolishing the police.
Organizers, including Until Freedom’s Tamika Mallory, who had been leading mass nonviolent protest training sessions ahead of the decision, expressed the need to show elected officials that the grand jury’s decision was inadequate. In downtown Louisville on Wednesday afternoon, Mallory urged the crowd to be both nonviolent and non-peaceful. Some protesters cried in one another’s arms as others shouted, “No justice! No peace! Say her name! Breonna Taylor!” and waved Black Lives Matter flags.
The nation had been awaiting the decision in the criminal investigation all summer. Cameron said he presented his findings to the grand jury beginning on Monday, and the jury made its decision by noon on Wednesday. The announcement came nearly 200 days after Taylor was shot dead by police while she was asleep in her apartment on March 13. As news of the incident drew attention in early May and picked up steam after the police killing of George Floyd later that month, protests broke out across the country.
Over time, the phrase “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” became a rallying cry for activists — as well as the focal point of countless memes. The phrase was plastered on T-shirts worn by athletes at sporting events and big-name actors at the Emmys. Many pointed out that Black women killed by police don’t often receive as much attention, or justice, in matters of police violence, and now was the time to correct that.
In the days leading up to Cameron’s announcement, Taylor’s mother, Tamika L. Palmer, called on the attorney general to charge all of the officers involved in the shooting. “It’s crunch time, and we’re putting our faith and trust in you,” Palmer wrote in an Instagram post directed at Cameron. “Do you have the power and courage to call my child yours, the power to see that my cry and my community’s cry is heard, and the power as part of a village who raises our children to do right by one of our daughters?!”
The FBI is still investigating Taylor’s killing for possible civil rights violations.